Airport and car rental
We didn’t sleep well on the flight. I could not get comfortable for the life of me – WOW Air seats are so limited in space! I was very glad to be off that plane when we arrived in Iceland, but we were both very tired. We followed the signs to the shuttle bus and took the complimentary car rental shuttle to Geyser, the company we’d rented our car from.
The young lad at the Geyser desk was very nice. They had free coffee at the rental desk – and he told us there was free coffee at the two gas stations Geyser offers discounts from too. Apparently free coffee is a thing here!
We followed the road signs into Reykjavik, keeping our eyes peeled for a diner or someplace we could get food. We switched between classical and RUV2 on the radio, Iceland’s version of CBC Radio 2. Matt kept remarking at all the Christmas lights around – Icelanders really do like to light up their long, dark nights!
The first diner-esque looking place we saw was just off the road in Reykjavik. It was a bakery lit up in red neon lights with a line-up of people even at this early hour. Bakarameistarinn had an impressive display of sanwhiches, pastries, and bread. I worked hard to resist the delicious pastries and cake after all I’d eaten that Christmas…
We shared a sandwich between us and each got a coffee and skyr. The place was very comfortable and had free wifi! We ordered a second sandwich for our lunch and headed back out on the road.
We were in desperate need of sleep, but our check-in wasn’t until 4pm. So, we found a place to park in a residential area just off the highway and put back our seats to catch some shuteye. We napped for about two hours, awaking with the rising sun at 11:20am. We felt much better after our nap!
I had not seen the Sun Voyager sculpture during my last trip to Iceland, so we set our first Google Maps destination to there. To our surprise, it was only 8 minutes away!
The sculpture was in the old harbour district of Reykjavík. We spent much of our daylight hours walking around there. It had a beautiful view of mountains in the constant light of magic hour (the sun never truly rose). Matt savoured the smell of the sea water which reminded him of home. Large ravens swooped and called overhead, and in the water bobbed gulls and unusual looking seabirds.
Aurora Reykjavik: The Northern Lights Centre
There were lots of boutiques, restaurants, and museums down by the harbour. An intriguing looking building caught our eye: the Northern Lights Centre! We wandered in and I zoned in on the spectacular Northern Lights postcards. Matt and I both bought two postcards and got chatting with two really nice guys at the counter. They informed us they had free coffee for guests and we could park in their parking lot while we ventured around outside. Free coffee AND parking?! Amazing!
The Sun Voyager
We followed the harbour down to the Sun Voyager. I am not a fan of sculpture as a rule, but this was always featured in promotional images for Iceland, so thought we better check it out. Turned out is was just past the HARPA concert hall, which I’d walked to before. People were all over it when we arrived, but slowly dispersed allowing people at road level to take people-less shots.
We made our way up the hill to Hallgrímskirkja, an iconic church in Iceland. It was a buzz with tourists taking pictures. We poked our head inside to admire the organ and vaulted ceilings, then headed back down the hill. We stopped in various places to review menus, weighing our options. We made our way down to the popular Icelandic hot dog stand, but the lineup was surreal! Another day…
Light snow came with sundown at 3:30pm. We made our way to the nearest Bonus discount grocery to pick up dinner and breakfast. I love Nordic food and had been raving about Icelandic rye bred to Matt. It was right at the door when we walked in!
We maneuvered the tight aisles and crowds to pick up coffee, muesli, skyr yogurt, liquorice, gravlax salmon, and cream cheese. We chose the Bonus no name brand for most items, hoping it would be just as good as Presidents Choice back home!
Come 4:00pm, we drove to our accommodation. It was further out of the downtown core than we had expected. However, we were pleased with how well equipped the kitchenette was. We had a microwave, hot plate, fridge, cutlery, cookware, dishes, towels and dish soap! After we unpacked, we sliced up the bread and gravlax. The bread was excellent and the cream cheese was like dessert!
Our accommodation did not have any staff in the building. We used a door code to get in where I found an envelope with my name on it with a key. We climbed the stairs to the first floor, all the while admiring the post-modern details of the old building. Next door to us was a ballet school, so we got to enjoy live piano music through the open window for much of the evening.
Matt had gotten a notification on Facebook that there were three restaurants nearby that he might like. The most well rated one caught our attention: Le Kock – and it was just around the corner!
Matt ordered the fries with feta, grapes, ranch dressing, and spring onions while I had plain fries with spicy mayo. We ended up switching plates after a few bites though – what I thought sounded like an unpleasant pairing was actually quite good. As for the fries themselves, Matt aptly put it as, “These Icelandic fries are tiny potatoes cut in half.” and who doesn’t like tiny potatoes?!
We split a beer between us – Gull’s Julle beer. It was very light despite its dark colour. This was the third Icelandic beer we had sampled that day – all have been very light in flavour and body.
Le Kock has free wifi which we enjoyed with the mix of 80’s and 2010’s tunes they were playing. I danced along to some while Matt looked up the release dates of others.
An Evening Stroll
After our meal, we went for a walk. We were amazed how many people were setting off fireworks all around town – and it wasn’t even NYE yet! We got quite a fright when one went off meters ahead of us. An old man had an overturned shopping cart he was using as a cracker stand for his humongous fire crackers. I haven’t seen so many large fire crackers before!
Back at our accommodation, crackers are still going off all around town. Occasionally we can see the colourful burst of light reflected in the glass of the building across from us. One can only imagine what tomorrow night will bring – New Years Eve!